Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Monday in the Second Week of Lent: February 26, 2024

Today’s Gospel reading is sometimes called the “Sermon on the Plain.” It clearly resembles Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, including the injunction to love our enemies, and to turn the other cheek. But it is not identical, and in some cases Luke’s version is more detailed than Matthew’s. That’s true in verses 32–34: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”

On its face, Jesus appears to be giving a list of “don’ts.” Don’t expect any (heavenly) credit for doing things that don’t involve much effort, much risk, much sacrifice. Loving those who love you isn’t that hard. Being good/nice to those who are good/nice to you? Well, that’s the least you can do—no credit there. And lending to those, particularly at interest, is no sacrifice when you get back everything you gave and more beside. So, you can read this as one of those impossible Sermon on the Mount-type requirements—don’t do anything that comes easily, but only the things that are really hard. 

But another way of reading Jesus is that this is a “don’t only.” Of course you should love those who love you; of course, you should be good/kind to those who are good/kind to you; and, yes you can lend (but not as a loan shark…). However, what God asks of you is that you go beyond that. Love those who hate you. Do good to those who do not and will not do good to you. Lend (and give) to people expecting nothing in return.

What Jesus is talking about is not a life of impossible self-denial and lovelessness, but a life more fully lived. A life where we seek to love beyond those who love us, to help those beyond those who help us, to give beyond those who will give back to us.

Will Morris
Assisting Priest for Engaging Local Communities

Links to the appointed readings for today